Noh family leaves Lake Oswego after two happy years

by: CLIFF NEWELL - Mary Spence, left, has been a great friend to the Noh family during their stay in Lake Oswego. She is saying farewell to mother, Sunghee; daughter, Hyowon; son, Wonjin; and father, Sangman.The Noh family will not be breathing that good Lake Oswego air again for a while.

They have gone back to their native South Korea after a productive two-year sojourn in the United States for father Sangman to learn English and bolster his chances of improving his career in international accounting. Accompanying him on his voyage of discovery were his wife, Sunghee; son, Wonjin; and daughter, Hyowon. Now their future is brighter, but they will look back in gratitude upon their time in Lake Oswego.

They will miss things like riding their bikes to church, going to the Lake Oswego Farmers’ Market, Hyowon beating everyone in chess at Oswego Pointe, the fresh, clean air, the beauty of nature and watching little animals being born. Other things, too.

“People are kinder here,” Wonjin said. “They help each other.”

From bucolic Lake Oswego, the Nohs are returning to Seoul, South Korea, a city of 10 million and with 25 million people in the entire metro area. They will be going from life in the slow lane to life in the fast lane.

“America is so huge!” Sangman said. “We’re ready for the new environment in Korea. It’s a very different culture.”

It seems that the mishaps for the Noh family in America were pretty minor. Such as Sangman flunking his first driver’s test for driving too slowly. It was also no picnic coming to America with almost no skills in speaking English.

But strangers were kind, and Sangman accomplished what he set out to do. His English skills are much improved, something he considered absolutely essential for advancement in his career, and those of his family are even better. Wonjin and Hyowon sound like American kids.

“We’re going to keep practicing,” Sangman said. “We’re going to speak English at dinnertime. I want to keep learning the proper vocabulary. One problem is that in English there are several words for the same thing. But compared to two years ago, I am very competent.”

Leaving Lake Oswego is hard for the Nohs, but it is also hard for the people who have come to have such great affection for them, especially at Oswego Pointe and in the children’s schools.

“It has been so good for us to watch this family grow so much,” said Mary Spence.

Not long before returning to Korea, Sangman gave a speech in his class at Portland Community College. He talked about his fears in coming to America (“I worried about my family’s survival here”) and how his fears were laid to rest because of the friendship of many people.

“I have confidence,” Sangman told his fellow students. “I have learned how to thrive in a new environment with help from others. I met new challenges and I am overcoming them.”

He also had some advice for his audience.

“Don’t be afraid of life’s challenges and don’t flee from them,” he said. “To be challenged is to become stronger and more confident.”

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